Can You Use Coconut Oil To Fry Food?

The scent of coconut makes many of us think of sunshine, warm weather, and paradise. If you like the scent and flavor, you may enjoy cooking with coconut oil. You may have also read that saturated fats like coconut oil are not the healthiest option. That's always the challenge with food, isn't it? We may occasionally enjoy fried food, but when we do, is coconut oil a good option?

Coconut oil is a superfood, but according to Harvard Health, the Mayo Clinic and The American Heart Association there are pros and cons to using it. As Harvard Health notes, coconut oil contains over 80% saturated fat which remains solid at room temperature. Other saturated fats include butter, palm oil, and lard. For years, eating excess saturated fat has been associated with elevated LDL cholesterol levels and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. The Mayo Clinic notes that studies found coconut oil may raise both LDL cholesterol and the "beneficial HDL cholesterol."

On the subject of whether coconut oil is healthy, Mary Mosquera Cochran, RD, LD of Ohio State Wexner Medical Center said, "Nutrition is a complex and nuanced topic. It's all about achieving balance." She echoes the American Heart Association recommendation to keep calories from eating saturated fats (including coconut oil) below 6% of your total daily calories.

However, we don't usually consider fried food to be healthy food. You may wonder whether it is a good option as a sometimes treat.

Fry the lime in the coconut

Every type of oil has a smoke point, which is the temperature where that oil starts to break down. The smoke point for extra virgin olive oil is between 325 degrees Fahrenheit and 375 degrees Fahrenheit. In comparison, the smoke point for unrefined coconut oil is 350 degrees Fahrenheit and 450 degrees Fahrenheit for refined coconut oil (per MasterClass).

When we deep fry foods, the oil typically reaches temperatures around 325 and 375 degrees, according to America's Test Kitchen. Shallow frying may involve similar temperatures. Based on this unrefined coconut oil may be a good option for frying at lower temperatures and refined at higher temperatures. The Food Network notes that refined coconut oil "with its high smoke, it is ideal for high-heat cooking methods like frying." They also noted the importance of moderation given the health risks associated with all saturated fats including coconut oil.

Well, the experts have spoken. While the jury is still out on coconut as a health food, in moderation, it can be a great option for frying. For more insights into the best oils for frying check out our guide.